MARION -- Tuesday's farewell tribute to the man who reshaped the City of Marion for decades to come was both inspiring and uplifting. It most certainly would have humbled the late, great Mayor Emeritus Robert L. "Bob" Butler. It also would have pleased him beyond words.
Several hundred residents of Marion and neighboring communities turned out for the public funeral service yesterday afternoon. Tears were most certainly shed, but the outpouring of songs, anecdotes and heartfelt conversations were like a warm embrace to the family -- wife Louetta and daughter, Beth, who have mourned their husband and father for the last week.
At times, the mood was somber inside the Marion Cultural and Civic Center as one might expect at a funeral. But at times, it was light. So many people who came to celebrate Butler's life accomplishments and pay their last respects had their spirits buoyed by Tuesday's service.
The credit for such is widespread.
Dr. Beth Butler, along with Jared Garrison, sang "A Flower Remembered" with piano accompaniment. David Stotlar performed the prelude to the service. Marion High School student Victoria Shore sang the "Star Spangled Banner."
A medley of spiritual hymns was performed through a piano duet by Lori Creamer and Bill Ewell. Elizabeth Byassee Shore sang "The Lord's Prayer" with accompaniment by Stotlar. The duo later combined to play on the piano the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
A Scripture reading was delivered by Rev. Virgil Walton, pastor of the Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Bill Rucker with the First Christian Church provided a message to the gathering, poking fun in a nice way of Butler as a youth with a story about him falling out of a tree, breaking his arm and then blaming his brother, Bill, for it happening.
"Bill said I think we all knew then that he would be a politician," Rucker mused.
Andrew Carruthers read the longtime mayor's obituary. The Junior Air Force ROTC presented the colors. The Marion High School choir ensemble performed "The Blessing of Aaron."
Scripture and closing prayer was read by Rev. Victor Long with the First United Methodist Church. There was also the congregational hymn, "Victory in Jesus," as led by Elizabeth Byassee Shore.
And retired Honorable Judge G. Patrick Murphy delivered the eulogy.
"Bob was a true friend who changed the lives of many," said Murphy, who had worked with and been friends with Butler for 60 years. Murphy said he was "honored" to have known his good friend.
"He was one of the few big men in my life," Murphy said. "There were a lot of aspects to his personality and character that people didn't even know."
Former mayor and longtime friend, Anthony Rinella, said he would not say goodbye to Butler.
"I just told him that I would see him again someday. I don't ever say goodbye."
Rinella said Butler most likely would have groused about the expense to put on such a fitting tribute.
"If you know Bob, you know how frugal he could be. But he would have been very appreciative, too. He deserved this."
As the procession of 50 cars or so made its way into the entrance at Rose Hill Cemetery, Pipe Major Les Lannom began playing, "The Green Hills Set" for Butler, who was a Korean War veteran.
Military rites were performed by the VFW Honor Guard followed by Lannom's piping of "Amazing Grace."
It was the perfect end to an imperfect yet highly successful and impactful life.